At 17, I clearly remember sitting in my guidance counselor’s office and being told, based on all the standardized school tests, that I showed promise in both math and science and therefore I should study physics in college. I said I preferred music, and was immediately lectured on the dreary statistical improbabilities of having a career in music.
When I told my parents, they lovingly encouraged me instead to follow my heart to a career that would make me happy –in that one moment in time, they gave me a set of wings... I went on to study music in college, earning bachelor and masters degrees.
During college, I was blessed to have the opportunities to study with many great musicians. My first teacher, Joyce Catalfano, provided a strong foundation with repertoire, etudes, and scale studies; the university’s orchestra likewise was a great learning experience, and the conductor, Lawrence Christianson, programmed masterpieces such as Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, and Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. I absorbed information from faculty, recordings, and spent every spare hour practising.
Four years later, even though I longed to be a performer it seemed the time had come to find a job as a music teacher. When saying goodbye to my orchestra director, he asked me what I really wanted to do. I started by saying I wanted to perform, and ended with that horrible phrase, “…but I’m not good enough”. I’ll NEVER forget his words: “I’m here to tell you that you are good enough, and I believe in you.” His belief in me provided a new set of wings, just as my parents had done 4 years earlier. He taught me orchestral excerpts for the next 4 months for free, while I held three jobs to pay for more lessons and master classes from a wide variety of amazing flutists.
Just as the money ran out, I met a wonderful young flute teacher, Dr. Kimberly McCoul Risinger, and after hearing her play one note, I knew that I would follow her anywhere. She landed a college teaching job and offered me a full scholarship to come and study with her. This was the best stroke of luck I have ever had by far! She challenged me in ways I had never thought possible, igniting the spark that launched me into my career. She gave me the skills to stand alone as a flutist, and encouraged me to keep studying until I would win an audition.
Driving 14 hours due east across the United States, nervous about the future, I landed firmly in the hands of my next amazing teacher, Dr. William Montgomery. He taught me how to teach and how to perform with nerves of steel, and by placing me in every performing venue possible, from technique class to recording, he solidified my playing. He is my mentor.
After the usual flute career ups and downs, from winning competitions to fumbling through job auditions, I struck it lucky on January 23, 2000. I stood behind the screen at an audition for the US Navy Band, played the way I wanted to play, and at last - after traveling to auditions where at least 50 other flutists competed for one job - my number was finally called! Fortunately, I passed the physical requirements for service in the military, and I was in the Navy…
As a flutist in the U.S. Navy Band, I am permanently stationed in Washington, DC, and perform with the concert band, a wind ensemble comprised of musicians who are truly artists in their field. We perform locally, as well as touring across the United States for a month every year, and I have had the opportunity to perform solos and duos with the band on a number of occasions.
The band also provides support for official ceremonies, ranging from state funerals to presidential inaugurations. I am proud to have witnessed and taken part in such historical occasions, and my travels with the band have taken me across the United States, to the Virgin Islands, and to Norway.
One of my greatest joys in the Navy Band is the flute and harp duo. We are called to provide music for state dinners, holiday parties, and other social gatherings hosted by our government, performing for dignitaries from home and around the world. One of our most memorable was performing in the White House during the Christmas season and meeting our President and First Lady.
In reflecting on my small place in this world, I know that my desire to play music has connected me to so many wonderful people. We all have great triumphs and miserable failures; we all walk away from the flute and then come back to find out that we hold music dearly to our hearts. But from amateur to professional, student to teacher, or anything in between, flutists color the world with the sounds we all love.
About the United States Navy Band
The United States Navy Band, located in Washington, DC, is the Navy’s premiere musical organization, and presents honors at official ceremonies and performs hundreds of public concerts annually. Comprised of some of the nation’s finest musicians, the band performs a wide variety of music including classical, popular, and patriotic works.
With 81 years of service, the Navy Band has become associated with significant national events, including presidential inaugurals, state funerals, and national dedications and memorial services. Internationally, the band has performed at military tattoos and festivals in Oslo, Stockholm, and Quebec City, as well as the 300th Anniversary of the Russian Fleet in St. Petersburg and at The Baltic International Festival of the Fleets in Kaliningrad, Russia.
The mission of the band is to provide musical support to the President of the United States, the Department of the Navy, and other senior military and government officials through public concerts, national tours, public concerts, recordings, and ceremonies.
Because the band is a preferentially staffed Presidential support unit, members are selected by competitive live audition. In order to audition, one must apply for announced vacancies and be a United States citizen of age 18 to 34. For job announcements and further information on audition requirements, please visit the Navy Band’s official website at HYPERLINK "http://www.navyband.navy.mil/"www.navyband.navy.mil.